Category Archives: Education and schools links

Pennsylvania: Charter Sharks Zooming in for the Kill with HB 530

Diane Ravitch, 10/25/16

Pennsylvania became an ATM for the charter industry under Republican Governor Tom Corbett. He is gone now, but the legislature remains indebted to the fat, happy charter owners. Many public school districts are on the brink of bankruptcy due to the rapacious charters that snare their students with deceptive advertising. Pennsylvania has more virtual charter schools than any other state, despite the fact that study after study (including one by CREDO, funded by the Daltons) has shown that virtual charters are educational disaster zones. Students who enroll in them don’t learn anything, but the virtual charter industry is rolling in dough. Two different virtual charter leaders have been indicted for theft in Pennsylvania; one admitted stealing millions of dollars, the other saw her trial dismissed because of age and infirmity but was indicted for theft of millions.

Into this land of struggling public schools and thriving charters comes a new legislative plot to privatize and monetize public school funding. It is called HB530. Under the (usual) guise of “reform,” the bill would open the door to the vaults that hold taxpayer money meant for children and welcome the charters to help themselves.

HB530 is a blank check for a rapacious, greedy industry.

Lawrence Feinberg of the Keystone State Education Coalition wrote this post, “20 Reasons to Vote No on PA HB530.”

Here are a few of his reasons:

Pennsylvania taxpayers now spend more than $1.4 billion on charter and cyber charter schools annually, in addition to funding the state’s traditional public schools. The current “rob from public school Peter to pay charter school Paul” system drains money from traditional public schools, forcing districts to cut programs and services for the students who remain. In 2011, the charter reimbursement line was eliminated from the state budget. It provided state funding to districts for the costs and financial exposure resulting from the addition of charter schools.

Legislators are now considering House Bill 530, which would bring much-needed reform to the charter school law that was written in 1997. The bill has several helpful provisions, but the harm that it does far outweighs the good. Here are 20 reasons that the legislature should vote against this measure.

#HB530 does not provide significant accountability to taxpayers for payments made to charter school entities.

#HB530 would create a Charter School Funding Commission that would consider establishing an independent state-level board to authorize charter school entities, bypassing any local decision-making by school boards and their communities.

#HB530 further limits the ability of communities to negotiate the role of charters locally. The decisions about how, when, and where to expand them should be made by those who have the information and expertise to do so in ways that improve education.

#HB530 is an entirely unwarranted intervention in the local governance of school districts. It would remove local control of tax dollars from Pennsylvania taxpayers and their elected school directors.

#HB530 sets no limits to money that charters can drain from local school districts, eliminating districts’ capability to plan and budget.

#HB530 is a vehicle for the Pennsylvania legislature to have local taxpayers pay for unlimited charter expansion.

#HB530 would let charter operators expand and add grades without any local input or authorization, regardless of performance.

#HB530 would let charters expand by enrolling students from outside of the district in which it is located.

If you want to save public education in Pennsylvania, contact your legislators now.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education and schools links

Breaking News: National NAACP Calls for Moratorium on Charters!

By dianeravitch, July 29, 2016

Julian Vasquez Heilig reports on his blog Cloaking Inequity that the National NAACP passed a resolution calling for a moratorium on charters.

Read the text of the resolution.

Delegates to the 2016 national convention of the NAACP in Cincinnati passed a resolution expressing their concern about the lack of public governance, the targeting of low-income communities of color, increased segregation, and harsh disciplinary policies associated with charter schools.

Do you think that the Walton family, ALEC, the hedge fund managers, Scott Walker, Pat McCrory, and every other Republican governor will stop claiming the mantle of the civil rights movement, now that their favorite “reform” policy has been denounced by the real civil rights movement?

Leave a comment

Filed under Education and schools links, Race, Ethnicity, Immigration

The Common Core Costs Billions and Hurts Students

By DIANE RAVITCH, New York Times, JULY 23, 2016

FOR 15 years, since the passage of George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind act, education reformers have promoted standardized testing, school choice, competition and accountability (meaning punishment of teachers and schools) as the primary means of improving education. For many years, I agreed with them. I was an assistant secretary of education in George H. W. Bush’s administration and a member of three conservative think tanks.

But as I watched the harmful effects of No Child Left Behind, I began to have doubts. The law required that all schools reach 100 percent proficiency as measured by state tests or face harsh punishments. This was an impossible goal. Standardized tests became the be-all and end-all of education, and states spent billions on them. Social scientists have long known that the best predictor of test scores is family income. Yet policy makers encouraged the firing of thousands of teachers and the closing of thousands of low-scoring public schools, mostly in poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

As the damage escalated, I renounced my support for high-stakes testing and charter schools. Nonetheless, I clung to the hope that we might agree on national standards and a national curriculum. Surely, I thought, they would promote equity since all children would study the same things and take the same tests. But now I realize that I was wrong about that, too.

Six years after the release of our first national standards, the Common Core, and the new federal tests that accompanied them, it seems clear that the pursuit of a national curriculum is yet another excuse to avoid making serious efforts to reduce the main causes of low student achievement: poverty and racial segregation.

The people who wrote the Common Core standards sold them as a way to improve achievement and reduce the gaps between rich and poor, and black and white. But the promises haven’t come true. …

continue reading at New York Times

Leave a comment

Filed under 2016 election, Education and schools links

Obama Friends Take Over For-Profit Higher Education Group

by Diane Ravitch, 2/10/16

A group of investors with close ties to the Obama administration have taken control of the University of Phoenix and other for-profit “universities.”

“The troubled for-profit education company that owns the giant University of Phoenix agreed on Monday to be bought for $1.1 billion by a group of investors that includes a private equity firm with close ties to the Obama administration.

“The university and its owner, the Apollo Education Group, have been subject to a series of state and federal investigations into allegations of shady recruiting, deceptive advertising and questionable financial aid practices.

“In recent years, many for-profit educational institutions that have received billions of dollars in federal aid, including the University of Phoenix, have been pummeled by criticisms that they preyed upon veterans and low-income students, saddling them with outsize student loan debt and subpar instruction.

“Moreover, at many of these schools, enrollment has been falling and profits shrinking, casting doubt on the future health of the industry.

“The investors in the Apollo Education Group include the Chicago-based investment firm Vistria Group, the Phoenix-based Najafi Companies, and funds affiliated with Apollo Global Management, which is not connected to the Apollo Education Group….

“Vistria’s founder is Marty Nesbitt, one of President Obama’s closest friends and the chairman of the Obama Foundation. Mr. Nesbitt is also a longtime business partner of Penny Pritzker, the commerce secretary.

“A Vistria partner and its chief operating officer, Tony Miller, was deputy secretary of the United States Department of Education between 2009 and 2013. He has been tapped to become the new chairman of Apollo Education Group in August, when the deal is scheduled to be completed.”

If you watched the video of the congressional panel quizzing John King about the ethical “lapses” of Chief Information Officer Danny Harris, you may recall that King said that deputy secretary Miller had cleared Harris.

Now we understand why the for-profit higher education industry has gotten a free pass.

Leave a comment

Filed under Education and schools links